Michigan Professor Who Called Autistic Son ‘Freak’ Sentenced After Backyard Pool Drowning

Sam Koets, who was non-verbal and functioned at the level of a 13- to 17-month-old, was left outside and unsupervised with his arms bound when he got into the family’s backyard pool.

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An associate professor in Michigan was sentenced to up to 15 years in prison this week for the involuntary manslaughter of his 16-year-old son, who was severely autistic and drowned in 2019 in the family’s backyard pool with his arms bound.

On Monday, a judge in Ottawa county sentenced Timothy Koets, a former Grand Rapids Community College assistant professor, to two to 15 years in prison in the March 2019 death of his son, Sam Koets. The 51-year-old father pleaded guilty in December to involuntary manslaughter, obtaining a controlled substance by fraud and fourth-degree child abuse.

Sam Koets, who was non-verbal and functioned at the level of a 13- to 17-month-old, was left outside and unsupervised with his arms bound on March 28, 2019, when he got into the family’s backyard pool at their home in Georgetown Township, Michigan Live reported. The teen had been placed in the backyard by his father, who went to teach classes while the boy’s mother slept inside, according to the outlet. 

Timothy Koets Pd

After Sam gravitated toward and got inside the pool, Koets’s 18-year-old daughter reportedly noticed and began yelling around the house, but left after she didn’t hear anyone. When Koets’s 13-year-old daughter returned from school, Koets asked her to check on “freak,” at which point she sent a photo of Sam in the pool, prosecutors said, as seen in court footage.

The father and daughter had a number of exchanges over the phone, one of which was an image of Sam in chest-deep water, and at one point the father told his daughter to “pull his testicles out,” according to a sheriff who had testified at a previous hearing. Koets eventually instructed his daughter to alert his mother.

Sam eventually collapsed and drowned in the pool. Prosecutors said on Monday that there were 15 occasions where law enforcement or Child Protective Services had previously been summoned to the home, primarily because the teenager had been left unattended.

“Each time Sam was left alone it was like playing Russian roulette,” Ottawa County prosecuting attorney Paul Kraus said in court on Monday. 

Koets told the court on Monday that he would not intentionally hurt his son, and expressed regret about the content of the text messages he’d sent his daughter.

“The words that I used were not good. It was a way of blowing off steam and I’m not excusing myself for that, but I would never harm or abuse Sam,” he said. 

Prosecutors said that Koets and his wife, Michelle Koets, had refilled Sam’s Ritalin prescription nearly 10 times after he died. She was sentenced to three weeks in jail on June 11, 2019, on a misdemeanor charge of obtaining a controlled substance by false representation after pleading no contest to charges, local station WZZM reported.

Koets was terminated from his full-time position in the computer information systems department at Grand Rapids Community College in Jan 2020, MLive reported. He’d been on staff there since the 2007-08 academic year.

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